Light pollution ‘helps wildlife’
Light pollution can benefit migratory birds in winter, ecologists have found.
Electrical lighting and gas flares associated with industry on the UK’s coastlines are giving birds the chance to stock up on more food to fuel their spring flight, according to a new study.
A team from the University of Exeter investigated how artificial light affected the feeding habits of the common redshank in the Forth estuary, one of Scotland’s most industrialised coasts.
The estuary’s salt marsh and mudflats – the site of Grangemouth oil refinery and Longannet power station, whose lights and gas flares illuminate the area at night – are home to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds each winter.
Researcher Ross Dwyer measured the amount of artificial light given out at night using satellite images from the US air force, marking the first time US military data has been used in animal behaviour studies.
Dr Dwyer then worked out how the light affected the birds’ foraging behaviour by attaching tiny radio transmitters to the backs of 20 redshanks. The devices monitored the birds’ location and contained posture sensors to detect how often the birds put their heads down to feed.
The birds usually forage by sight during the day and less efficiently at night by locating prey by touch using their bills. The study found that, at night, birds in brightly lit areas foraged for longer and by sight, rather than touch, compared with those under darker night skies.
Dr Dwyer said: “Artificial light from industrial areas strongly influenced the foraging strategy of our tagged birds. It was as if the 24-hour light emitted from lamps and flares on the Grangemouth oil refinery site created, in effect, a perpetual full moon across the local inter-tidal area which the birds seemed to capitalise on by foraging for longer periods at night and switching to a potentially more effective foraging behaviour to locate prey.”
Every year millions of waterbirds arrive from the Arctic to UK coasts, but until now scientists remained largely in the dark about how these birds respond to the bright lights of coastal cities and industry.
The results contrast with other studies, which have found adverse effects of light pollution on wildlife. Previous research found artificial light caused newly hatched turtles to head away from the sea, rather than towards it, and caused seabirds such as petrels to collide with lighthouses and other lit structures. The research is published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal Of Animal Ecology.
Latest posts by Silversurfer's Editor (see all)
- Should teaching the National Anthem at school be compulsory? - January 17, 2018
- Best Coffee makers guide - January 15, 2018
- How some children perceive their grandparents - January 12, 2018
- Heat your room up to 60% faster than a standard radiator with the newly-launched Stanton RadBooster - January 12, 2018
- Do you pay 5p for a plastic bag or take your own? - January 10, 2018
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!